Karen Bloomberg, a pioneer in the field of communication disability, passes away

It is with sadness that we advise you that Karen Bloomberg- Speech Pathologist, internationally respected leader in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and a long serving member at Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre (CIRC), passed away last week.

In a distinguished career as a disability and human rights advocate, Karen was a powerful voice for people with complex communication difficulties and played a major role in championing initiatives to support their needs.

She was a founding member of Key Words Sign in Australia and instrumental in establishing AGOSCI and ISAAC-Australia. Between 2001-2015 she was part of the leadership group at Communication Access Network in Victoria.

As Karen said “Because I have a disability, I have always been interested in making the community more accessible and helping community members be open to interacting with people who communicate differently. This means nurturing attitudes in line with Scope’s message of ‘see the person, not the disability”.

Karen contributed extensively to the evidence base to Augmentative and Alternative Communication through her peer-reviewed research and publications. Together with Hilary Johnson, they conducted the first demographic study in Victoria in the 1980’s, to understand the impact and number of Victorians experiencing communication disability. This study led to the creation of a state government funded service to support people with complex communication needs -SCIOP.

But, as much for her contribution to the field of communication disability, Karen will be remembered as a mentor, supervisor and an inspiration for countless student Speech Pathologists and Disability Support Workers in various tertiary institutes across Australia.

In 2017, Karen received the Debbie Otto Award at Scope’s annual leadership awards in recognition of her outstanding role in empowering people with disability. Karen was inducted into the Lifetime Achievement Honour Roll at the 2017 Victoria Disability Awards. After 30 years of service to Scope, Karen retired in 2017.

“Each of us is fortunate to have met that handful of people in our lives whose integrity and vision for a better world shines so brightly that we are a better person for the lessons they teach us. Karen was such a person.  She touched the lives of so many people and used her passion and talent to create a better future for others” said Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald AM, Chief Executive Officer, Scope Australia, and someone who worked closely with Karen over the years.

Karen brought a sense of joy and lightness to CIRC. Her sharp wit and wicked sense of humour will be missed by many. On behalf of the entire Scope community, we extend our sincere condolences to Karen’s family and friends.

Vale Karen.